AL MURRAY “THE PUB LANDLORD” GIVES AN INTERVIEW TO VISIT WATFORD, JUST A FEW DAYS BEFORE COMING IN TOWN AS HE TOURS HIS EXTENDED HIT SHOW!

Al Murray, The Pub Landlord who is bringing his extended sell-out tour, Landlord of Hope and Glory, around the UK this Autumn including a performance at the Watford Colosseum on 23rd November, gives an interview to Visit Watford; find out everything about his tour lifestyle, his music skills and his relationship with Watford.

What made you enter the world of performing arts, and what advice would you offer to young aspiring actors and comedians in Watford who might be interested in gaining an entry into more experience and awareness in the area?

I got into stand up because I always wanted to sort of perform or act. When I went to University there was a brilliant scene of people doing comedy, writing and performing. My advice would be to fall in with the right crowd. Find the right people and get yourself part of a scene and then you will basically end up educating and supporting each other and compete too! One of the things about the arts that I think people don’t realise is that it is very competitive. And that’s kind of how you do it, I think. Basically, seek out people who are doing that as well and make a little scene. That’s what I did.

That is the same about stand-up comedy; the only way to learn how to do, it is to do it. You can sit around and talk about it, but doing it is the crucial part.

We’ve got a local College here that offers an arts course and they’ve got very strong links with organisations and theatre venues around Watford, so they are trying to give students those opportunities.

My other advice is if you are an aspiring comic you’ve got to just write, write, write as much as you can, all the time. And eventually what happens is you figure out how to do it. Writing is a massive skill in lots of things and there is only really one way to learn how to do it and that’s by doing it. That is the same about stand-up comedy; the only way to learn how to do, it is to do it. You can sit around and talk about it, but doing it is the crucial part.

When you are on tour, what do you like to see and do as an individual in any free time you might have in town?

One of the things about touring is that food becomes important, so finding good places to eat and knowing where you can rely on. We are obsessed with food when we are on road. I am finding good stuff to eat, avoiding bad food and a sort of temptation towards salty sandwiches really.

How easy is it for you to go out and get food? Do you just walk into a restaurant and ask for a table? You must be spotted all the time.

Sometimes you can just walk in and get a table and they are like “it is lovely to have you here” etc. and others they are just like “whatever” (laughs).

What are the worst things about being a performer?

I would say – every now and again – I envy people who go to work. I wish I had a job to go to at 9 and finish at 5. These people, they know what they are doing Monday to Friday, they have weekends, they can plan, they book their leave and go on holidays. There is a bit of me that envies all of that. Because I don’t have that; if I get a Friday off and plan to meet friends it is a really big deal for me.

What are the best things about being a performer then?

Oh! The fact that it is Wednesday and I didn’t have to get up until I wanted to (laughs). Probably all the things you think in reverse.

Is there any location in the UK that you always find is a fantastic place to go in terms of audiences or atmosphere?

It is more the theatres, the actual venues. There is an architect, his name is Frank Matcham who designed a load of theatres and these theatres are so perfect to play; perfectly designed for what I do. I couldn’t tell you how. It is “algorithm” – what we call it now – the way understood the proportions of the rooms, the stage and all that. There are different sizes of venues, but they are all built in the same proportions and they are just the nicest places to play. He knew how to draw attention to the centre of the rooms, focus it and make sure everyone can hear what you are saying.

What do you think the role of small theatre venues is in the modern-day world of theatre and drama? Do you think these venues play a key role in the local community? We have many examples of small theatre venues in Watford. 

Absolutely. Theatre will only blossom and grow from starting of the roots. It can’t just start in a big theatre. You can’t just put things on big theatre; it has to develop as it works its way through.
Another thing, people have to learn how to do it and they have to learn what they are doing. And then, audiences need to engage with it and not necessarily every time in a big theatre or in a big play. Theatre can be small and intimate and local.

One thing that we thought was very interesting about you too is that you play in a band, you have had a strong musical influence at University, and you are involved in manufacturing drum kits, is that right?

Yes, I play in a band called Fat Cops and we put a record out earlier this year. We have also just done a load of gigs opening for the Happy Mondays on their Scottish tour which was really good.

And then there is the British Drum Company which I set up with a colleague who is a drum maker. We set up the company four years ago, just the two of us, and now there are twenty people on the factory floor. We are exporting all over the world and the drums are handmade in Stockport. It is the most exciting project I have ever been involved with.

Do you take anything on tour with you?

I always take sticks on tour with me so I am always practicing, but we don’t take drum-kits on the road, because that would be overdoing it. My poor technician!

Last question around the tour lifestyle which probably links back to what we were talking about before about food; how do you try to keep fit and exercise when being on the road for long periods of time?

That’s a good question. Sometimes I use the gym at the hotels, but I like walking; wondering around a new place and getting to know it. That tends to be my exercise, so I will go out and walk for about two or three hours in the morning. Just to make sure my blood is going everywhere around my body at least once a day.

I also think one of the things that is actually quite interesting at the moment is that everyone is a catastrophist; everyone believes that things are the worst, that the world is about to end, the decisions we make are the worst decisions we could possibly make with the worst possible outcome. I don’t know if that’s necessarily helpful or if that’s necessarily a smart way of looking at this.

As a graduate in Modern History and considering the current political situation, do you feel that perhaps we are losing the ability to be objective in our interpretation of our own history? How do you think this will be reflected in a few years’ time?

No. No one has ever been capable of being objective in interpretation of history. I almost think it is impossible. Any history you ever read is written with the present day in mind. It is not, in one way or another, addressing current concerns and I also do not think we are any better or worse in processing information. Also, not everyone is engaging with it at the same level or in the same way and I think it is very hard to generalize about politics.

I think what is happening right now, it would be very interesting and fascinating to read about in 2150 when it is written down and to find out – because I do read a lot of history – what the obvious causes of what is going on are. Because we are in the middle of it, we might have no idea of what the obvious causes are, the way historians slice the facts up.

I also think one of the things that is actually quite interesting at the moment is that everyone is a catastrophist; everyone believes that things are the worst, that the world is about to end, the decisions we make are the worst decisions we could possibly make with the worst possible outcome. I don’t know if that’s necessarily helpful or if that’s necessarily a smart way of looking at this.

I wish someone could send me – by a time machine – a history book written in 2150; that would be an interesting book to read, if only to know what happens next.

What made you get into history at University in the first place? Was it something you have always been interested in studying?

I grew up in a family that was obsessed with history, so it was a completely natural thing to do or to be in to.

We know that you are coming to Watford on the 23 November for your show at the Colosseum, have you been in Watford before?

I have of course. Watford is so close to home because I live in West London, it is just geography.

What would you tell someone about visiting Watford?

I know Watford from going through it on the train a lot, as my parents are from Milton Keynes. Accessibility. It is easy to get to because you are on the M25 and you’ve got Watford Junction station.

Sign up to our newsletter